San Diego
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Katie Sagal

10+ Things to Do in San Diego When it Rains (Popular Indoor Activities)

While San Diego is typically sunny and temperate year-round, it does get its share of rain on occasion. If any of those rainy or gloomy days happen to pop up on your vacation, don’t worry! There are plenty of fun indoor activities and things to do in San Diego when it rains, from museums to aquariums and more.

Looking for some fun things to do indoors? Try out some of these:

  • Balboa Park Museums
  • USS Midway Museum
  • Birch Aquarium
  • The New Children’s Museum
  • Museum of Contemporary Art
  • And more!

San Diego Air & Space Museum

San Diego Air and Space Museum

Fans of science, particularly the history of flight, will want to make sure not to miss out on a chance to visit this Balboa Park mainstay. The San Diego Air & Space Museum is one of the country's best, reflecting San Diego’s naval heritage and the important role it plays in the development of flight across the 20th and 21st centuries.

Of course, the history of space flight spans much further back than the 1900s – which you’ll learn after a visit to this exciting museum. See the actual balloon flown by the Montgolfier Brothers in 1783, Wright-era aircraft, navy bombers, and even the Apollo XI Space Pen. There’s so much to explore inside this attraction that you’ll forget all about the weather outdoors.

San Diego Natural History Museum

Natural History museum

Another Balboa Park favorite, the Natural History Museum is filled with fascinating exhibits and artifacts. There are five floors filled with dozens of interactive exhibits that house everything from gigantic dinosaur bones to tiny gemstones.

You’ll also get the chance to watch a selected film at the museum’s theatre, with films offered on topics such as “Ocean Oasis” and “Wild Africa.” Don’t miss out on the chance to take the whole family here.

USS Midway Museum

USS midway

The USS Midway Aircraft Carrier Museum is one of the city’s most popular attractions, and it’s a great rainy day option because you’ll probably beat many crowds by visiting on a less-than-sunny day.

The inside of this amazing retired aircraft carrier is fascinating for military buffs of all ages, with areas like crew sleeping quarters and the flight control deck available for touring. Visitors will learn all about the history of this iconic craft and her 50-year service, which spanned several wars and multiple campaigns. Keep in mind that parts of this attraction are outdoors.

Birch Aquarium

Birch Aquarium

If the animal lovers in your life are down about missing the San Diego Zoo on their rainy day, then be sure to take them to the delightful Birch Aquarium for a chance to encounter some fascinating wildlife. Explore an extensive variety of marine habitats and informative exhibits, including topics like “Boundless Energy,” “Wonders of Water,” and “Live Tide Pools.”

There are also exhibits organized around specific types of marine life, such as “There’s Something About Seahorses” and the popular “Hall of Fishes and Shark Reef.” Plus, you’ll get an amazing view of the water from inside the aquarium – a great chance for stunning coastline photos without worrying about getting wet.

Fans of the Birch Aquarium may also find the Living Coast Discovery Center of interest, which is located south of San Diego.

Fleet Science Center

Fleet Science Center

This amazing scientific complex is not to be missed by those with an interest in the natural world or technology. The Fleet Science Center is filled with interactive exhibits, displays, and programs that allow visitors to make the most of their learning experience.

Try out the Tinkering Studio for a chance to make your very own great invention, or check out Dream! Design! Build! This exhibition features hands-on building activities to help you dream like a visionary, design like an architect, and build like an engineer. It’s also home to the first IMAX dome theater, so be sure to use that complimentary IMAX ticket that comes with Go City® admission!

More Balboa Park Museums

Museum of Man
Photo credit: Stacy Keck

Of course, there are plenty more museums in Balboa Park to choose from. Whether you’re interested in the history of human civilization, or just love to look at old cars, there’s something for you to explore. One of our favorites is the San Diego Museum of Us, which provides an excellent study of human history through art, anthropology, archaeology, and much more.

Others will get a kick out of the Automotive Museum and the Model Railroad Museum, which are just perfect for collectors and excited kids. The best part is, that a few of them are relatively close together so you aren’t getting soaking in transit. If you’re looking to explore museums that are further apart, take advantage of the free Balboa Park tram to get around.

Art Museums

Art museums

If you prefer artwork to automobiles, there are many opportunities for you to enjoy as well. Indulge your creative side with a visit to one of the region’s many art museums. For example, the San Diego Museum of Art is the most traditional, featuring all paintings, sculptures, and craftwork.

The Museum of Photographic Arts features some truly compelling examples in this genre. If modern art is more your thing, then a trip to La Jolla is in order to scope out their fantastic contemporary collections.

San Diego is also home to the Museum of Contemporary Art and the San Diego Art Institute.

New Children’s Museum

Children drawing

Families know that sometimes the hardest part of traveling in bad weather with kids is the lack of opportunities for them to get out and burn off some energy. That’s where the New Children's Museum comes in. This exciting and interactive museum offers dozens of exhibits and themed areas for children to explore, climb, play, and create.

With a particular focus on the inspiring potential of art, this museum offers plenty of chances for kids to express themselves through creativity, whether that’s by crafting their own sculptures or by participating in guided art-making activities.

Whaley House

Whaley House

Many visitors forget that San Diego is a city with a ton of history. With American roots stretching back to the mid-nineteenth century, you shouldn’t be surprised to come across historical homes that date back to California’s debut as a state. 

That’s why a visit to the lovely Whaley House is in order. Built by San Diego pioneer Thomas Whaley, this house first served as his family home before later being used as a general store, a theater, and even the San Diego County Courthouse. 

Mingei International Museum

Mingei International Museum

The Mingei International Museum is a globally focused institution that tells the history of humanity’s relationship with art and how artistic works impact culture. You’ll see art and artifacts from around the globe and throughout history, although the collections have particular strengths in African and Japanese art, contemporary American craftwork, and pre-Columbian artifacts. 

Of course, with 26,000 objects in their collections, it’s clear that they represent a little bit of just about everything.

Quick Rainy Day Recap 

So if you’re in search of some ways to spend some time indoors and things to do in San Diego when it rains, we hope we’ve given you plenty of attractions and activities to choose from. There are, of course, plenty of other options too, such as shopping in fun downtown areas like Seaport Village, taking in a theatrical performance, or exploring the local cuisine. 

Can't choose? No need, see it all with Go City®

With an All-Inclusive Pass from Go City, you can visit both attractions for a fraction of the cost. Plus, you could save up to 50% on all your San Diego must-sees. Or pick an Explorer Pass, if you've chosen your fave and have a specific bucket list you're dreaming of ticking off.

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